Midnight Thursday at Gate A3 in Singapore's Changi Airport, minutes away from boarding a flight back to Paris, we heard the announcement: "Delayed Indefinitely".
The day before: tangerine sunset off the Andaman Coast of Thailand. Three days later: we are but three of thousands of Europe-bound passengers affected by the ash cloud from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
At first it was just annoying. Unable to find a hotel room at one o'clock in the morning we spent the night on the airport floor with polyester blankets and acetate sleeping bags. Yesterday was better. We got into a hotel (not easy, as the entire city is fully booked) and learned that our credit card insurance will cover us for lodging and meals up to a decent amount. Tonight it's just scary: Singapore Airlines has 'confirmed' us on a flight for the 25th, but we're dubious about making it on, as Singapore-Paris flights continue to be cancelled daily, and the backlog is beyond heavy.
On the good side: we are not missing a wedding, birth - or, as I overheard two different passengers at the counter plead - funeral for a family member. One cannot imagine the anguish of those trying to make it home in time for the final hours of a loved one. We consider ourselves very fortunate.
But we can't stay here forever (especially without work permits), and are investigating alternatives. Times like this make one appreciate the miracle of modern air travel: we arrived on an Airbus 380 with generous leg room and enough movie and TV choices to happily pass thirteen hours. Getting back? If we can get a flight to Dubai we might be able to get a flight to Marseille and join hundreds waiting for trains to the north. Or we might be able to get from there to Cairo, take another flight to Tunis, and possibly a ferry to Marseille - and then there's that train thing again. Or a rental car and another eight hours on the road.
If we lived in London we'd likely be adding the Eurostar (if we could get on), or a ferry across the Channel.
I read that comedian John Cleese paid five thousand dollars for a taxi from Oslo to Brussels. Were there not an ocean and a few compromised Middle Eastern countries between us and home, a taxi wouldn't seem so crazy right now.
So here we are, in a glassed-in room on the thirty-first floor of a Singapore hotel, our idyllic Zen vacation but a distant memory, parsing our insurance money between Starbucks, numerous cheap and delicious local restaurants and, in a weak moment when we couldn't take Asian food another minute (it's been two weeks since we left France), Kenny Rogers Roasters.
That's right, I said Kenny Rogers Roasters. Wikipedia: look it up. US bankruptcy in 1999, continues to flourish in Asia.
And flourish it does. Nothing like a barbecued chicken wrap and cornbread when you may be spending the next couple of weeks in Asia. Like I said, we consider ourselves fortunate.